As my home state of Vermont’s aging and ailing nuclear reactor is in the news a lot right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about where we get our electricity and what it means.
I bet most people would be surprised to learn that the U.S. still gets more than 50% of its electricity from coal. Yes, coal, the same stuff that you might imagine Oliver Twist scrounging around in the gutters for. There’s a nice little film, Kilowatt Ours that has been quietly winning awards and acclaim. The filmmaker, Jeff Barrie, shows us the results of our energy appetite, and he shows us how we can take steps, little steps and big steps, to start changing the equation.
Electricity has been in the news for other reasons. Last week Al Gore challenged the U.S. to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. And Texas oil tycoon and investor T. Boone Pickens—someone generally not taken as a treehugger—is setting out to build the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas. We’re going to be hearing a lot about electricity, and energy in general, in the coming year, including how it affects our security, our economy, and our environment.
As we do, remember that the least expensive and critical first step for us to take control of our energy future is efficiency and conservation. The less energy we use, and the smarter we use it, the easier it is the meet our needs whether we’re talking about nuclear, wind, solar, or a bicycle power generator. And we don’t have to wait for new exotic technology—we can start saving today.